Amber Rudd energy policy reset: Scottish Government and Scottish Renewables reaction

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Commenting on UK Energy Secretary’s speech today, Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing (pictured) said: “The UK Government has recognised belatedly that its policies have weakened energy security and pushed up bills but today Amber Rudd has missed an opportunity to put in place new plans to address the gaps in UK energy policy, with few if any new actual incentives to drive energy generation.

“Ms Rudd fails to point out that higher transmission charges in Scotland mean effectively that no new gas power stations would be built here because the costs of using the grid are higher than England. This regime which discriminates against Scottish generators affects all generators, and means that Scotland cannot attract new thermal generation when in competition with alternative sites in England.

“Having failed to support Longannet, Peterhead or any new baseload in Scotland through the first capacity auction, the UK Government’s new ‘dash for gas’ is an admission of the seriousness of the UK’s energy crunch and a belated attempt to replace the UK’s ageing nuclear and coal fleet.

“With the UK energy strategy so reliant on gas-fired generation it is essential that the UK Government continues to support the construction of the world’s first full-scale gas carbon capture and storage project proposed for Peterhead Power station.

“There is further bad news for Scotland’s renewables industry with no support for the cheapest renewable technologies, such as onshore wind, and a further year’s delay to awarding contracts to new renewables capacity, which is particularly concerning for projects on Scottish islands, and Scottish offshore wind developments.

“We believe the oil & gas industry has a bright future and agree with the principle of maximising economic recovery. We’ll work closely with the Oil & Gas Authority in the best interests of the industry and will respond to the UK Government’s strategy consultation in due course.”

Niall Stuart, Chief Executive of Scottish Renewables, said: “It appears that the Secretary of State is bending over backwards to highlight the benefits of gas-fired and nuclear power, whilst overstating the challenges of increasing our renewable energy capacity. It is right that we get coal off the system but there is no mention of gas already being the UK’s main source of carbon emissions, the cost of nuclear power being significantly more expensive than onshore wind and solar, nor the challenges of managing large and inflexible nuclear power plants.

“With the promise of future support for gas, nuclear and offshore wind, it is totally unclear if there is any future for investment in onshore wind and solar, despite the fact that these are the cheapest forms of renewable power available. Both have the potential to make a significant contribution to future climate change targets while keeping bills down for consumers, but we will only secure deployment if they too can bid in for the long term contracts for clean power available to other technologies.

“The offshore sector will be pleased to see ministers set out ambitions for future growth in the 2020s – as long as costs continue to come down – but the delay to the next auction of long term contracts leaves two major projects off the coast of Scotland in limbo for another 12 months. It also pushes back delivery timelines for onshore wind projects on Scotland’s islands which will in turn delay the delivery of grid connections, meaning these developments will not be able to contribute to Scotland’s 100% renewable power target.

“The Government’s commitment to innovation and research is right, particularly in the crucial area of energy storage, but again they focus on everything but renewables, and there is not even a mention of the huge potential of wave and tidal energy.

“Lastly, heating accounts for 45% of the UK’s energy use and we have still to see any detail on how the Government believes it can best move us away from fossil fuels to renewables. With less than five months to go till the current funding of the Renewable Heat Incentive runs out, industry needs certainty so it can plan for the future and continue to deliver the change in the energy mix that Government wants to see.”